Groups spending hundreds of millions to get you to vote, but is your personal information at risk?

ATLANTA — Since voting started with the June primary, Georgians have been inundated with flyers, text messages and phone calls reminding them to get out and vote.

“There’s never a break, you know? You’re getting text messages; you’re getting emails,” said voter Patrick Myers.

“They ask you to tell a friend. I’m like, ‘Why would I tell a friend? I’m pretty sure you already have anyway,’” voter Christiankeith Marshall said.

And now you’re likely getting them about Tuesday’s runoff election.

“Hopefully, my information isn’t going to be used in a bad way toward me negatively, but the stakes are so incredibly high,” said voter Melissa Rabb.

Channel 2′s Matt Johnson has learned that hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on the Senate runoff races on Tuesday.

That means more dollars for campaigns and voting groups to spend on getting your information to reach you by text, phone call or mail.

“Once people realize that you could sell this data, then it became a whole new ballgame,” said Richard DeMillo, chair of the school of cybersecurity and privacy at Georgia Tech.


He told Johnson that organizations and campaigns use a mix of public information and data that is purchased from data brokers.

“They may know when the last time you took an airplane trip was because they have access to credit card files. Or they may know what books you’ve purchased on Amazon because they purchase that information from marketing firms that they tell you that they may have access to your Twitter stream,” DeMillo said.

It’s all legal as long as the data isn’t used to sell a product. In this case, it’s being used to best predict how they can get you to vote for a candidate.

“There’s an industry that relies on the fact that there are so many sources of data for an individual that you can sometimes put together a pretty good behavioral picture of what that person is going to do,” DeMillo said.

Channel 2 political analyst Bill Crane told Johnson that groups from both political parties frequently reminded him to return his absentee ballot.

“There’s data mining going on at a pretty significant level for them to daily know that I have not yet dropped my absentee ballot back from DeKalb County and from both of them to go after it,” Crane said.

For Stella Triebsch, she voted early this month with a friend in what is her first election after turning 18.

“It was so exciting. And the poll workers were really excited for us because we told them it was our first time,” Triebsch said.

She told Johnson that the texts and phone calls haven’t got to her yet, but she thinks they’re effective at driving up turnout.

“I think that is a better connection to people than all the ads,” Triebsch said.

More than 2 million people have voted in the Senate runoff races.

But turnout is still 21% lower than it was for the presidential election, according to

Experts say as long as our data is online, expect it to be used in many more elections to come.

“It’s good to slow down for a second to ask whether or not that’s actually something that you want floating around the internet,” DeMillo said.

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